[Note: this is a continuing part of a series reproducing a sermon. An explanation can be found here.]
Obedience is a part of the Christian life, but it does not define the Christian life. It is exposed by Scripture, and comprehended in community. It is motivated by love, and aimed at Christ-likeness. And finally,
IV. Obedience overcomes despair and opens the door to joy.
The passage as a whole is a transition from despair, to peace. But to mention obedience before a congregation of sensitive people is to raise the anxiety level and to breed further despair. We’ve not been successful in the past and we can’t see things changing in the near term future. So, you ask, “Why further traumatize me?”
Remember that John’s concern is life. And obedience is a path to life. Obedience is discerned from Scripture, understood in community, and as a good shepherd and father the Holy Spirit nurtures us along slowly. Obedience is choosing the right thing, the one thing, step by step, as He leads us, and by this means, He leads us in the path of life and joy.
There is life in obedience that might not always be evident from the outside.
Years ago, I was a college junior with a stack of books eighty feet tall needing to be read. So, one Sunday, after church, I sat in a dorm lobby with my girlfriend, one day to be my wife, and I read and read and read, and the more I read, the more the stress rose.
As the need for relief grew more intense, I finished a book and hurled it across the room. And that seemed a perfect time to begin to reflect on the 4th commandment – the command to keep the Sabbath.
I remembered how I had been urged by a Christian friend (notice the community involvement) to see this commandment as having been given by God for my delight. So I decided from that point on to not work – to not do my ordinary labor, my studies – on Sunday. I determined to legitimately take a sabbath no matter what the cost.
And there was no cost. From that point on my work got done, and the stress dissipated. Obedience brought life.
We would be wrong then to assume that the fruit of peace in this came from the act. The law and the desperation drove me to Jesus, and Jesus gave life. The fruit does not come from the act of obedience; the fruit comes from God. Change does not come from obedience; change comes from God.
But obedience is an integral part of the path of life into which Jesus has brought us.